I will demonstrate how to create a feathered paint job. This is where one color becomes another color, I used red black and silver on an Xbox controller.
Paint - I used Krylon plastic bonding paint in red black and silver.
(I would advise looking up "vinyl dye" in google as an alternative to paint for plastics)
Masking Tape - 3M blue painters tape
Sandpaper - I prefer 220 grit
Paint Thinner - Optional
Spackle or Carpenters Putty - These work well to cover up logos and dents or scratches
(vinyl dye will not work well over spackle/putty, but spray paint will)
Since I am making this after an attempt to create a tribal design (which didn't turn out all that great) I will show pictures from both of these, I took no pictures from the second one so I will attempt to recreate some steps for your understanding. Feel free to tell me how to improve it.
Step 1: Painting Prep
Before anything happens you must first take apart the controller, if this concept scares you, turn back now. I found that the people at Llamma.com have detailed instructions for both the disassembly and assembly for the wired and wireless controllers.
Once the controllers are disassembled, we will need to sand down the gloss on some of the surfaces of the controller. Since the Xbox controller has few of these this is a simple step. The parts that I had to sand down were: the RT and LT, RB and RT, D-Pad, Start and Select buttons, and parts of the battery. The sanding on these parts should be minimal and just enough to take off the shine of these pieces. Before you start painting read the instructions on the spray paint as some of the different types of paint suggest steps for better paint application. My paint suggested I rub it down with some paint thinner to get rid of loose particles and debris. Don't forget to shake the spray paint for 2 or 3 minutes.
Step 2: Layer One: the Base
Before you start to do anything painting wise, decide on a base coat, I chose the silver color. Paint the whole controller this color with even paint strokes to ensure that you don't get paint drips and puddles. Some advice when doing this is DO NOT RUSH IT. The first time painting this controller (yes there was a first time) I painted it too fast with too thick of coats so when I masked it off the next morning the masking tape pulled up layers of paint because even after 24 hours the paint wasn't fully dry. Also when painting, paint the light colors first then the dark colors unless you know the light color can go over the dark without it showing up underneath the lighter color. Because of these two mistakes I spent hours sanding down the old paint and because I was sanding, I used spackle to cover up logos such as the Microsoft and also the Start, Select, 1, 2, 3, and 4 in the middle of the controller for a smoother design.
Step 3: Layer Two and Three: the Feathering
I do not know if "feathering" is an actual painting term, but hey, lingo doesn't matter when you have a sweet paint job. Unless you are trying to describe it to a painter. First things first, decide where you want the least amount of top coats (mine are red and black). For this I chose the middle of both the front and back of the controller.
To keep this area from getting too much paint, take a strip of newspaper and use masking tape to tape it in place, but not to the front of the controller, I wrapped my paper around the front onto the back and taped it there so that there would be no crisp line where no paint goes. Then I make sure that the black is on the same side of the controller for the front and back. I do not have any pictures of this process but I'll try to be as exact as possible.
To begin the first side make sure to shake the can well before painting and continue to shake after a few coats. For the first side, (mine was black) make full sweeps on the newspaper and work your way onto the controller making sure not to spray too far, maybe one sweep onto the controller then let it dry for 10-30 seconds before the next go at it. For this next spray, start on the paper as before, then work up 2 or 3 strokes onto the controller and wait 10-30 seconds and continue to do this for as far as you wish. I only went to 3 or 4 strokes and to get more dusting farther up do not lightly hold the nozzle down to keep the paint from coming out of the tip fast, hold it farther from the target and blast it from that height or else the paint will come out as large droplets.
Do the same with the red as you did before with the black (If you use more than one color) except with the red cover up the black like how we prepared the middle of the controller with newspaper, but since the black is fresh let it dry for 3 -5 minutes before covering it, and do not put the tape on the paint, wrap the newspaper around the controller and tape it off on the underside of the controller (the part which houses the electronics. and begin the red coat just like the black part. After both the red and black are painted let it dry for 3-5 minutes then remove the newspaper and let it dry fully (I'm letting it dry for 7 whole days to avoid what happened on my first attempt).
Step 4: Finishing the Painting
After the paint is fully dried (I waited a full 7 days before proceeding) I applied thin layers of clear coat to avoid running, bubbles, and puddles. After it is fully painted, dried, and clear coated. Feel free to put it back together and show it off to friends and family. Some of you may notice that the D-pad and other parts of the controller look different than the body. To achieve the speckled look, first make a base coat of one color (I did black) and spray a single blast from far back so that it has specks of red on black. It almost looks like a Gears of War controller.
I have been doing some research on painting plastic for a possible upcoming project, and so far the best paint for plastics is actually a dye. It's called vinyl dye, it works by being absorbed into the pores of the plastic, and dying the plastic the color. It will not cover up any mistakes, and I have read that you should avoid trying to spray the dye over filler, or already painted plastics. The dye will not adhere to the plastic if it has already been painted over, and the dye can not soak into the fillers so that it will look bad if you attempt to do so. I just thought you guys should know, since the vinyl is VERY durable, since it changes the color of the plastic rather than paint over it, you can be rough to your controller and it will maintain its color.